Rite to Life

-THIS IS A DYSTOPIAN-
In a future, yet illusive world, society is divided into three factions. No one ever speaks of Faction One since the feud between people and the king. Nara is from Faction Two. She has survived sixteen years under the care of volunteers. Sixteen years of living in Faction Two is like living in eighteenth century London, although that place doesn’t exist any more. Nara has dreamed of life in Faction Three, a safe, prosperous haven, a sanctuary, where her birth parents wait for her. Only the Rite separates them. Every citizen at aged sixteen must undergo the Rite to gain access into Faction Three, the land of the perfect beings. The Rite corrects all imperfections and flaws, gives people the Third Eye. A higher level of consciousness. When she finally gets to Faction Three, cracks begin to show. Secrets are soon revealed to Nara and she must do everything in her power to expose them to the population. Faction Three is not what it seems. It is a dark, cryptic place

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5. Chapter Four - Nara

The next few days past in a blur, I had tried hard to clear my mind in Mrs Bevan’s lessons, but none of her methods of relaxation seemed to help. All I could think about was Blaze. Blaze. Blaze. I’d seen another side of him in my dream, even if I had only imagined him the way I wanted him to be. What if that side of him existed and he never showed it? Passing the Rite would ruin any chances of my finally seeing that side of him. Our friendship would be over forever. What if he was right? Passing the Rite could be great for me, but not attending could be just as good. Right? I’d still have my best friend. I wouldn’t have to move.

I wouldn’t have to settle in an unfamiliar town. Everything I ever wanted could be found in Blaze. Sure, I wouldn’t have the perfect mind or perfect life, but I’d have him and I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to my best friend. Surely that was just as important. My parents would understand, wouldn’t they? I didn’t even know them. Blaze had been there all my life, my parents only witnessing one day of my sixteen years. I couldn’t blame them for it; however, the guilt surely on King Aldwyn’s hands.

School had been its usual bore, crucial subjects such as Maths, English and Science along with the Rite Studies with Mrs Bevan. Flinging open the front door, I marched in, threw my bag on the ground and headed for the kitchen.

“Tallulah?” I called, wondering why the house was so quiet. Usually, when I returned from school, I’d come home to hear the crackling sound of the TV as Jonathon watched his basketball games. “Jonathon? Are you home?”

Taking the silence as an answer, I rolled my eyes. Where had they gone? Even if they were home, I had always felt alone. Their presence never counted for anything. They were ghosts to me. I took this as an opportunity to sneak into their bedroom and hunt for my romance novel. Rummaging through drawers, and under mountains of crumpled clothes I had recently attempted to iron with the broken ironer, I hoped to find my beloved book. Growing impatient, I stood in the middle of the room, trying to think where she might have hid it. As if a light bulb had switched on in my head, like they do in cartoons, I suddenly thought of the bed. Would she be clever enough to hide it under the mattress? I lifted up the mattress and a huge grin spread across my face. The vibrant colours of the cover shined brighter under the florescent light. I grabbed it and dropped the mattress.

Scurrying along the corridor and into my room, I collapsed on my bed, like I did so often, pulled my knees to my chin and dove into my novel. In that moment, the cocoon sealed around me, and it felt like there was only me and the book left. As if the rest of the world had disappeared completely. All that mattered were words on the page. Transported into another world, a world full of love and recklessness, I forgot everything else, like I always did when I read. Will I meet my soul mate in Faction Three? Or had I already found him? These new emotions I felt towards Blaze confused me. I’d never felt them before, and so suddenly, they had risen within me. What had triggered them, the fear of losing him?

Throwing my book aside, I hastily grabbed my phone and dialled Blaze’s number.

“Blaze?” I asked quickly. “Can I meet you in ten minutes? There’s something I need

to say.”

“Um...sure.” he sounded surprised to hear from me, considering I had so rudely hung up on him the last time we spoke. The line disconnected a few seconds after.

Grabbing my white daps out of the box with my favourite, yet sparse items of clothing, I headed for the door. Blaze and I always met outside the little shop across town. He didn’t need reminding where to meet, he already knew. Ten minutes later, and on time, I ran into Blaze.

“Hey,” I said nervously. I felt my cheeks burn as I remembered the dream from the previous night. “What’s the matter?” he asked, cautiously. “Has something happened?”

“No I’m fine,” I reassured. Shakily, I slowly reached for his hand, entwining my fingers with his. Surprised, he watched as I did this, curiosity in his eyes. “Can we walk? There are things I need to tell you.”

Befuddled, he nodded and we walked to the nearby canal in silence.

Upon arrival, I noticed the dense trees that lined the canal that stretched through a small section of the island. Algae covered the expanse of the canal and tiny, delicate ducks swam leisurely trough the water. This perhaps being the only beauty of Faction Two.

“Okay, enough with the silence,” Blaze said impatiently. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m staying,” I said instantly. My free hand started shaking, how would he react?

“What?” he stared at me, eyes wide and feet rooted to the ground. Staring at him, I considered whether or not I should make a run for it, get as far away from here as possible. But this is what he wanted, right?

“I’m staying in Faction Two,” I whispered, kind of hoping he wouldn’t hear me. He sighed with relief, a grin sprouting on his face.

“And what made you decide that?” he seemed genuinely intrigued. He leaned towards me, pulling me closer slightly. His eyes glimmered as the light shone through the gaps in the trees.

“Um...” my cheeks burned. Should I tell him? It’s not like I had anything to lose. “I had a dream.”

 “Oh really?” he grinned. “And what happened in your dream?”

“You were there, I saw a different side of you,” I said, nervously rushing through the words. “A side I preferred and I think that if I stay, I might just get to see that side of you in reality.”

His face was suddenly serious, searching my eyes, merely inches apart from mine. He towered over me, tilting his head downwards to gaze into the deep blue depths of my eyes. Slowly, as if unsure, he lifted his hand and caught a piece of my flowing hair between his fingers. Mesmerised, he twiddled it around his fingers he tilted his head to the side. I stood imperiously still as he did so, and held my breath. My heart hammered inside my chest, stomach knotted and knees weak. Our eyes connected once again, both stood in complete silence, neither of us wanting to shatter it with a single word.

Blaze wore a plain white T-shirt that covered his muscular chest and shoulders. He had always been a broad, well-built guy, twice the size of me. A pair of old, faded black jeans hung loosely from his hips, and battered baseball boots clung to his feet. His hair, relatively clean, glimmered in certain areas.

“What are you doing?” I whispered, nervously. This didn’t happen, right? This kind of thing just didn’t happen. Not in real life anyway. I’d read so many romance books where the protagonist falls in love with her best friend and they live happily ever after, getting a little clichéd now, if you asked me.

“Nothing,” he chuckled, and dropped the piece of hair and the connection was broken. Blaze walked ahead, kicking the tiny stones across the canal path. He reached down and grabbed a couple stones and lobbed them into the murky water.

I looked around in silence, wondering what to do with myself. I couldn’t just stand there like a helpless moron. I had to do something. My eyes landed on a nearby tree and without second thought, I marched towards it and began analysing the trunk, looking for a safe route up. Latching my foot in a small hole in the trunk, gripping branches from higher up, I pulled myself up off the ground.

As I climbed higher and higher, adrenaline began to course through my veins, and the closer I got to the top the thinner the branches got. I decided to sit on a sturdy, safe branch. From up there, I could observe him without him seeing my facial expressions. After a few moments of skimming stones, he turned his head, listening. The next thing I knew, he jumped around.

 “Nara?” he called. “Nara, where are you?”

 Should I have said something? In a cruel kind of way, I wanted to see how he reacted to my disappearance. Staying hidden, concealed by the thick layer of leaves and branches, I stayed silent. Blaze’s eyes widened as he stared at the canal. Oh God. Was he really that dumb?

“Blaze!” I yelled. “Before you dive in there like an idiot, I’m up here!”

He turned around, trying to follow my voice. Walking forward, he glanced up through the branches and spotted my giggling face.

“What are you doing up there?” he asked, annoyed.

“If I climb high enough, I might finally feel like I’m flying.”

“That’s stupid, come down before you fall down,” he ordered. I kind of liked his protective side, but sometimes, he spoke the way a mother would. I doubted he would ever be good with children; he had always been very impatient, barely being able to look after himself half the time.

“Yes, Sir,” I giggled and climbed my way down. When I reached the lower branches, I jumped down and landed on my feet. Admiring my skills, I beamed a smile at Blaze who stared back at me, unimpressed.

“Do you want to get yourself killed?” he questioned, worried and angry at the same time.

 “I was just having a laugh.” I huffed and crossed my arms, like a little child would. But then we both laughed and shrugged it off.

Later that evening, we went our separate ways, and when I returned home, I filled the bath with lukewarm water, scrambled out of my clothes and slowly eased myself into the water. It wasn’t very often I could enjoy the warmth and pleasure of a bath, due to the household income being rather low. A sigh escaped my mouth as I relaxed and leaned against the wall of the bathtub, the tips of my hair resting on the top of the water. Closing my eyes, and breathing slowly, I began to clear my mind, which, of course, had been unusual; my mind had been so jumbled up lately.

Images of a calm beach played before my eyes. The sky a bright blue, with no clouds in sight, apart from the tracks the aeroplanes had printed in the heavens. No one had seen an aeroplane in a long time. That kind of technology didn’t exist anymore. King Aldwyn made aircraft illegal after hundreds of citizens tried to escape, some succeeded, from both Factions under his power. They had tried to escape to Faction One, the taboo around here. No one ever spoke of that place.

Faction One, also known as the City of No Identity, welcomed citizens from the other Factions as it would enlarge their population. Very few people populated Faction One, and when there had new arrivals, the ones that had managed to escape by aircraft, they began to brainwash them in a completely different way. Everyone wore the same things. Everyone did the same thing. It was a unity. There was no monarchy, no parliament. They lived by a simple rule: do what you have to do to survive, or die. I’d overhead a conversation between two teachers about Faction One, during school a couple of weeks ago, and decided against reporting them. They had said that the citizens of Faction One were obedient people, crime rates were low, I had guessed, wouldn’t it be a better place to live? It’s not like any of us around here, had a choice. We were stuck in Faction Two forever. But now that I didn’t have to think about the Rite, I began to imagine what my life might be like in Faction Two. Would things get serious between me and Blaze? Would I be able to move in with him? I would not be able to bare living with Tallulah and Jonathon for longer.

After soaking in the bath, for a while, I reluctantly climbed out and wrapped the towel around my body, hugging it tightly. Pulling the plug out, I let the water whirl away. I watched it as it slowly disappeared from sight.

Dried and dressed and in bed, I pulled the patchwork blanket tightly around my small form and dragged my knees up to my chest. The curtains were drawn, not even a drop of light in the room, casting shadows along the walls. My phone buzzed as it perched on top of my bureau. Grabbing it, I stared down at the text received from Blaze.

Sweet dreams, beautiful.

His words yanked at the strings of my heart, like they had done so many times before. My stomach knotted and I felt a weird, fluttering sensation deep within. That had been the first time he had called me that. Beautiful. And in fact, it had been the first time he had text me in a long time. Tears stung my eyes and threatened to fall. But they were not tears of sadness, but tears of happiness, and even hope. Hope for the future. The future I could share with him, and it all seemed so simple. With the Rite out of my mind forever, I could focus on my life with my best friend. Sure, we wouldn’t be able to travel around like I had hoped if we had both gone to Faction Three, but we had each other, and that had to count for something.

We’d be lumbered with a child to care for, but we would teach them that the Rite isn’t everything; it’s not the most important thing in life. Without friends, one is alone, and in Faction Three, if you were without your social group from Two, you would be alone, guaranteed. How would I be in Faction Three without friends? I wouldn’t be able to cope. But I have made my decision, and that is final.

Unable to find sleep, I switched on the lamp, and scrambled around to find my romance novel that I had flung aside earlier. Finding it open, spine up on the floor, I grabbed it, heart racing, excited and unable to wait any longer. I needed my escape. I needed to feel free, and no matter what Faction I was in, and who with, I would always need that escape. The cocoon began to seal around me as I dove into the book, following the many words on the page. It shattered when Tallulah entered the room. She flung the door open, anger in her eyes.

Marching in, she grabbed the book out of my hand, and to my surprise, launched it out of the room.

“What have I told you, Nara?” she growled, hands on hips. “You need your sleep!”

I rolled my eyes, should I tell her I am staying? Ah, why the hell not?

“I’m not leaving, Tallulah,” I frowned at her. “So go and pick up my novel and give it back.” She stared at me with eyes wide, unsure what to say.

“What?” she gasped and I thought, for a second, I saw fear in her eyes. So, I had been right all along. She had never cared for me at all, she had hoped I would leave her alone forever and never step foot in her life again. But there has been a change of plan.

“You heard me,” I said, sarcastically. “Go and get my book.”

Tallulah stared at me, rooted to the spot, and deaf, by the looks of it. I sighed and went to get my book instead. Holding the door open, I waited for her to leave. And as she did, I looked at her with disgust. How could she be so rotten, so cold?

After she left, I shoved the door shut, without turning the handle. My force made the wall shake slightly. Retreating to my bed, I curled up with the patchwork blanket around me, like usual, and returned to my novel. The words whirled around me in a chaos, sealing me in my cocoon of escape. Concealed away from the rest of the world, I began to relax and everything just...faded away.

And just like that, so easily, all that mattered to me was what happened next. What would happen to my favourite character? Would she end up with her Prince Charming? A little cliché, I know, but those were the best love stories. No other genre could hook me so easily. Lost in my fantasy world, I became fixated with the story, the characters, the emotions and thoughts. Everything.

Hours had past and I had whizzed through another couple chapters of the epic. My eyelids felt heavy from reading, so I decided to place the book down and switch off the light. Encompassed by darkness, I cuddled up with my pillow and patchwork blanket and breathed out a low sigh. Life finally felt bearable. I no longer felt torn between my family and my best friend. I had never even met my parents anyway. They would understand, right? Anyway, they would never know that I planned to fail on purpose. It was the right thing to do, right? I couldn’t leave the person who had been there for me my whole life, the only person in fact, for two adults who I had never seen, never even spoken to. I had spent my whole life in Faction Two, and it was all I knew. Everything seemed so clear. It finally made sense. Blaze was important to me, and I wouldn’t sacrifice our friendship for people I didn’t even know, and probably wouldn’t like anyway.

 I’d move out of this house, leave Tallulah and Jonathon to their own devices, and move in with Blaze and his carers.

Sleep greeted me, and I succumbed to my dreams.

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